More Sports / Football

Frontiers down Rise in X League regular-season finale

by Hiroshi Ikezawa

Staff Writer

Yusuke Shinshi rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Fujitsu Frontiers to a 45-24 victory over the Nojima Sagamihara Rise on Sunday at Yokohama Stadium as the X League’s regular season concluded.

The Frontiers stayed undefeated with a 7-0 record while the Rise (5-2) dropped out of the four-team playoffs.

In other games on Sunday, the Obic Seagulls (7-0) defeated the Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers (4-3) 44-17, while the Kajima Deers (5-2) came from behind to beat the Panasonic Impulse (6-1) 47-45, both at Nagai Stadium in Osaka.

The Frontiers and the Seagulls ended the regular season tied with perfect 7-0 marks, but the Seagulls take the No. 1 seed after drawing lots. In the Final Four playoff, the semifinal round of the X League, the Seagulls play the No.4 Deers, who earned a playoff berth over the Rise because the opponents the Deers beat had better win-loss records than the ones the Rise defeated, at Yokohama Stadium on Dec. 1.

The Frontiers take on the No. 3 Impulse at Osaka’s Kincho Stadium the same day. The winners of the Final Four battle each other for the league championship in the Japan X Bowl at Tokyo Dome on Dec. 16.

The game between the Frontiers and Rise turned out to be a wild one that saw 10 turnovers — seven lost fumbles and three pickoffs. But the Frontiers maintained the momentum throughout the game and never gave up the lead.

The Frontiers build a 14-6 lead midway through the second quarter on reserve quarterback Motoki Yoshida’s 3-yard run and running back Keita Takanohashi’s 15-yard rush. The Rise played well offensively, but had difficulty moving the ball deep in the opponent’s territory, scoring two field goals in their first five possessions.

The Rise, however, finally found the end zone late in the first half. Yohei Ayabe’s interceptions gave the Rise possession at their own 46-yard line. Four plays later, Takashi Miyako rushed 1 yard for a score. Masato Kinoshita’s 42-yard pass to Yuji Otaki set up the score. The Rise tied the score 14-all with a successful two-point conversion with 1:40 remaining in the second quarter.

But the tie was short-lived as the Frontiers scored on a 29-yard field goal in the closing second of the first half.

The second half had a wild opening as Frontiers kick returner Junpei Yoshimoto lost a fumble in the opening kickoff, giving the ball to the Rise at the Frontiers 41-yard line. But the Frontiers defense got the ball back quickly by forcing the Rise a three-and-out, and the offense made the best of the chance to score a touchdown on Shishi’s 26-yard run, widening their lead to 24-14.

The teams went scoreless for the next 16 minutes and as many as four lost fumbles occurred during that span. It was the Frontiers who ended the scoring drought as Gino Gordon scored on 1-yard touchdown run with 8:24 to play. The Rise answered with a field goal in the next possession, but the Frontiers countered with Sinshi’s 31-yard scoring run and Shota Yoshimoto’s 21-yard intercept return touchdown.

The Rise’s final touchdown was a spectacular 79-yard strike from Kinoshita to Shigeaki Inoue with 4:23 to go, but it was too little, too late for the Rise to earn a berth in the playoffs.